Once a week I post interviews with interesting people about their insights on their experience of working in the Knitting industry. I’ve noticed that every one of these individuals makes their living in a slightly different manner bringing their own unique presence to the knitting world.
You can find Xandy here and here on Ravelry.
Where do you find inspiration?
Inspiration comes in via two streams: the first is stitch development, and the second is styling and fashion. My stitch development generally starts with a "what if" question. The same thing goes for construction and shaping. It's all about trying as much as possible and getting a few decent things going on. At the same time I like to keep a folder of visuals and fashion sorted by theme and color scheme. Then, when things work, the swatches and the styling cues come together and make a full design.
What is your favourite knitting technique?
I'm obsessed with stacks right now. They're interesting to work with because they do crazy things and there's always something new to discover with them. I can't think of any other technique that's really held my attention for as long.
Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
Everyone should look at other people's work to gain perspective. I try to see as much as possible but only follow a handful of people closely. I take classes with other designers to learn more about their design process, but I never worry about losing my own identity from studying with them. Sometimes I learn a few tricks for finishing or a new cast on though.
How do you feel about the so called controversy of “dumbing down” patterns for knitters?
I've never been accused of dumbing down patterns, so I don't know exactly how to answer. There's a place for all levels of difficulty, and I prefer designing intricate things that don't come easy to everyone. I try to switch out some hard stitches for those that are easier to read in a pattern, and provide external videos and articles for the weird stuff, but that's as far as I'll go. Knitters, at least in my experience, are very smart people and can handle a lot of "difficult" techniques when they do not fear failure.
How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I do all my samples for the most part just because I need to work through things myself a lot of the time. My mother is my main tester, but I'm expanding to use others as my business grows. It's funny because I feel bad sometimes as if I'm forcing her to work for me, but every time she finishes a test she's like "what's next?" or she wants knit it again in another color.
Did you do a formal business plan?
Informally I do have a plan, goals, and do self reviews, but I am waiting to see how my first 3 years develop before really writing a business plan because at this point I'm still learning exactly what areas of knitting I want to be involved with.
Do you have a mentor?
In college I had a feeling that I wanted to do craft or indie design, so I interned for a brand that I found on Etsy called Ruffeo Hearts Li'l Snotty. They really understood the indie fashion world and had a gallery that sold other artists' handmade fashion as well as their stuff. It was most helpful to see people not much older than myself running a craft business and talking about operating costs and marketing and real business issues. At the same time, they taught me the practical skills of how to grade, cut, and sew patterns.
Do you use a tech editor?
Yes!! It's really important and nobody told me that I needed one until I'd released a few of my first patterns. I wasn't thinking of doing this as a career back then, but those first patterns could have been better.
How do you maintain your life/work balance?
Because I have an illness, it's not easy or practical for me to work a job with regular hours. Being able to plan my own schedule allows me to get a lot of work done when I feel well and take a break when I need to rest. It also allows me to plan ahead for big events and appointments. I don't think there are many other forms of work that would allow me to have that flexibility and balance.
How do you deal with criticism?
I welcome it and possibly crave it. I miss the critiques that I got in college because I know that some criticism would make a lot of my work better. I try to take the comments people have after the fact and apply them to future designs.
What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
The internet is an amazing place to try out self publishing before making a major life change. Go through the whole process once the right way and see if you still like to knit when it's your job.
What’s next for you?
What’s next for you?
I'll be teaching some of my patterns (Fox Paws especially) and techniques. Of course, I also have some new experiments in the works.